1795-1863 1914-1918

Lithuania Part of the Russian Empire, 1863-1914

In 1863, Lithuanians had joined the Poles in rebelling against Russian rule. The Russian administration, regarding the Catholic church and tradition as a root to rebelliousness, abolished the Latin alphabet, introducing GRAZDANKA, a Cyrillic alphabet for the Lithuanian language. The RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH was declared state religion, the (hitherto Catholic) dioceses of Vilnius and Samogitia incorporated in the Archdiocesis of Mogilev. All Catholic monasteries were dissolved. Thus Lithuania's ties with central Europe were severed. The first DEPORTATIONS took place. Political repression and poverty also caused emigration. Russian immigration was encouraged.
The consequence was a low level of literacy. Late in the 19th century, Lithuanian books (in Latin alphabet) were printed in LITTLE LITHUANIA (across the border in Prussia), such as Lithuanian grammars by Schleicher 1856, by Kurschat 1876, and smuggled into the country; the HOME SCHOOL MOVEMENT contribited to strengthen national identity. A national movement emerged, which stressed the need for education. In 1883 JONAS BASANAVICIUS edited a(n illegal) magazine in Lithuanian, AUSRA (the dawn).
In 1895 a LITHUANIAN SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY was founded, which openly advocated complete Lithuanian autonomy. In 1902 the LITHUANIAN DEMOCRATIC PARTY (liberals) was established, also an illegal organization; in 1904 they changed their name to LITHUANIAN PEOPLE'S SOCIALIST DEMOCRATIC PARTY; the LITHUANIAN FARMERS' UNION and a CATHOLIC-DEMOCRATIC PARTY were founded in 1905.
In 1904 the ban on Lithuanian-language publications was lifted.
In 1905, the year of the first Russian Revolution, the GRAND ASSEMBLY OF VILNIUS (Didysis Vilniaus Seimas, Dec.4th-6th), demanded political autonomy for the province, demanding the introduction of Lithuanian language in the entire area settled by Lithuanians. It pursued a policy of confronting the Russian Empire, calling on the Lithuanians not to pay taxes to Russian authorities, not to send their children to Russian schools, not to apply to Russian state authorities.
As in Russia proper, the political parties had little influence; the Czarist administration soon reestablished control and treated the Duma in St. Petersburg with suspicion; the Grand Assembly of Vilnius had assembled only once and Lithuania neither had a representative assembly, nor did it exist as an administrative unit.

Lithuanian society was largely agricultural - the typical Lithuanian was a farmer. The country had few cities, most notably Vilnius, Kaunas, which were centers of administration and, traditionally, education. There was little industry.

Links to Lithuanian history from SRC
History of Lithuania, from Scantours
Chronology of Catholic Dioceses - : Lithuania, from Den Katolske Kirke i Norge
Articles Lithuania from Catholic Encyclopedia 1912 edition
DOCUMENTS Map featuring Russia's Baltic Provinces, Blackie & Sons 1882, from FEEHS (135 K)
Litauen, P.1, P.2, from Meyers Konversayionslexikon 1888-1890, in German
REFERENCE Manfred Hellmann, Grundzüge der Geschichte Litauens (Main Features of Lithuania's History), Darmstadt : Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft 1976 (in German)

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on November 11th 2004

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